There are tens of different articles talking about the advantages of Responsive Web Design (RWD) for websites. From SEO to flexibility, mobile support and cost effectiveness, it is clear that Responsive Web Design brings a lot of clear benefits. In the world of enterprise, however, the term “Responsive UI” is hardly used, or to be more accurate, not as popular as it is among web designers.
Well, I think that Responsive UI holds dramatic advantages for enterprise applications, and here’s why:
1. Enterprise apps should run on any device
Responsive UI is often discussed in the context of websites, but many of the enterprise apps are web-based.
True, they are far more advanced than simple websites, but the benefits you get from being able to access them from any device, mainly smartphones and tablets – remain.
Responsive UI, in the context of enterprise apps means that employees can connect to their working tools on the move, or from their personal (or corporate) mobile devices while working from home, or if needed - during the evenings or weekends. All of this – without developing a second (or third) version of the application.
2. Lower Maintenance Costs
Who is the UI designer for enterprise products? You would think it’s the one who designed the product, right?
Well, not exactly...
Many of the tools used by enterprise companies are built using dedicated platforms or development IDE’s designed to provide maximum flexibility and pass most of the control to the “implementer”.
In the world of consumer products (or modern, simple cloud-based products) the role “implementer” doesn’t exist, but when large projects are involved – the implementers are sometimes the company’s own IT or come from a third party, and they have the power to define how the application looks like and how it behaves. Their role is to work with the business people and define the forms, the UI layout, the workflows, etc.
That’s a lot of work.
Having strong responsive UI capabilities in those platforms will reduce the amount of work the implementers need to invest; instead of creating one form layout for a smartphone, one for a tablet and one for a widescreen desktop – the implementers can configure only one form which will automatically “adjust” itself (optimally of course) to the screen size.
And keep in mind that responsive UI is not only about UI layout. There are other capabilities such as reacting to touch event, finger gestures, peripheral hardware support (camera, barcode, NFC, etc.) which are part of the “responsive UI” basket.
Here’s an example from my product: ClickMobile:
ClickMobile is an enterprise mobile platform for field employees which is widely popular among service organizations. The platform provides powerful rapid development tools (mostly visual, business oriented, and code free) as well as a developer SDK (for code-level development) and a set of readymade business apps.
To provide an extremely powerful designing environment – our visual form editor has some really cool responsive UI capabilities. To be more specific: you can design 1 form which will look like a mobile form on smartphones and will expand (and reshuffle itself) to look like a natural windows form on desktops (that means it will not just stretch itself). In addition ClickMobile has plenty of responsive layout capabilities (all automatic!) that will make the mobile apps look like sophisticated desktop apps without spending time redesigning them on each media, and that includes split views, side panels and much more.
For our large customers, it means they have to worry about designing only one user settings (kind of like templates – based on their specific needs) which will fit all devices. How cool is that?
Enterprise apps can get complicated at times.
Complicated forms, long processes, context-specific business logic, validations, you get the picture.
Employees should know those processes and follow them, while the products they use are required to provide the best experience to ease and simplify those processes.
Responsive UI can simplify things by defining a consistent experience through the entire range of devices: from smartphones to desktops.
True, the layout is expected to change according to the screen real-estate, and possibly some capabilities should be exposed or hidden based on the device type – but the majority of the app, including the behavior of every UI element is the same across all devices. Having a consistent behavior across different devices means better user experience, easier onboarding process, faster learning, and less human mistakes.
Responsive Web Design is great for websites, but the idea behind responsive UI is applicable for applications as well, and in the context of enterprise, those are often web applications which are required to run on all mobile devices in an optimized (and natural) way, and provide value and great user experience to all the employees.